Rory McIlroy said his immediate ambition is to survive the US PGA Championship cut after he shot an opening round of 74 in the final major of this year. McIlroy, one of the pre-event favourites, endured a series of problems on the greens with 35 putts contributing heavily to his four over par total.
“First and foremost I just need to play a good round to get into the weekend,” said the four-times major winner. “That is the first objective and then we will go from there. I know my game is there because I keep giving myself chances. I’ll stay as patient as I can, try as hard as I can and hopefully I can turn this around.”
McIlroy’s frustration was obvious and perhaps amplified by the 68 of his playing partner Jason Day. It was the first time since the third round of this year’s Masters that McIlroy failed to record a single birdie in 18 holes. Jimmy Walker leads the way after day one, the 37-year-old posting a 65.
McIlroy returned to work on his putting with his lifelong coach Michael Bannon at 6.15pm, five hours after his round had concluded. “It is good on the [practice] putting green,” the Northern Irishman said. “It’s just a matter of taking it from the putting green on to the course. It is more of a mental thing as well, I maybe need to be a little more assertive and not so tentative.
“I didn’t have any momentum out there. I am happy with my game tee to green. I am driving the ball as well as I have ever, I think. Iron play feels good. The greens are just a different story and I have to figure that out for tomorrow. I have to shoot something in the mid-60s to get myself back into it.”
Dustin Johnson’s start was even worse, the US Open champion slipping to a 77. Henrik Stenson, who won the Open less than a fortnight ago, posted a 67. Jordan Spieth birdied two of the last three holes for a level-par 70. “I haven’t started off a tournament with a low round in quite a while, which is a bit of a bummer,” said Spieth. “It’s the same this week. I had plenty of chances early on to get to three or four under. But I’m only five back.”
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